Remarks of The Honorable David J. Hickton
at the FBI Citizens Academy Graduation Ceremony
3300 East Carson Street
Thank you Mike.
It is an honor for me to be here to speak to this year's class of the FBI Citizens Academy. By your attendance you have demonstrated one of the great virtues of committed and devoted citizens of this Great Nation: participation. You do not have to hold public office, as I do, or be employees of the Federal Government to make important and lasting contributions to our Country. To the contrary, informed, involved citizen heroes make valuable contributions every day as partners in the quest to protect the public welfare and enhance the common good. The experiences you have had over the last several weeks benefit both you and your community. Your public spirited community involvement is commendable.
I want to offer a special "hello" to my good friend Max Scuillo who is one of the graduates of this year's class. Max is a great man and a special friend. We met under the most difficult of circumstances for him and Sue and the Scuillo Family. Before I was United States Attorney I had the honor of retiring the Central Catholic Hockey jersey of Paul Scuillo in a deeply moving ceremony. My service as United States Attorney is inspired by the memory and service of Paul Scuillo.
As United States Attorney, I am responsible to enforce the federal law. There are 93 US. Attorneys covering the 94 Judicial Districts. As United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, I am responsible for 25 Counties located from Ohio to Blair County and New York to West Virginia. We are based in Pittsburgh, with branch offices in Johnstown and Erie.
My job is extremely challenging and very rewarding. The threats we face in law enforcement are varied, complicated and dangerous. But the dedicated men and women who devote their lives to protect us are exceptional. One does not go into public service for the money or for comfort. The work is long, hard and difficult. Public servants are in it because they care. The service and devotion I witness every day is inspiring. I hope you have had a sense of that through your experiences over the last several weeks here at the FBI.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is organized to best meet our responsibilities. We have three sections: Criminal, Civil and Appeals. We also have an Administrative Group which supports our legal work and office functions. Within the Criminal Section we have four sections: National Security; Civil Rights and Exploitation; Violence Crimes; and Fraud and Corruption. Dedicated National Security and Civil Rights Sections are new to our office and reflect the need to protect the Nation against internal and external threats; to combat hate and bigotry; and, to assure freedom and justice for all.
Our Violence Crimes Section is our largest criminal section devoted to significant community impact prosecutions including drugs, firearms and gangs. We also prosecute other acts of violence, including homicide or robbery such as the Konias case in the news today. Our Fraud and Corruption Section helps to maintain the public trust by prosecuting public corruption, environmental crime and health care fraud.
We have an active Civil Section which defends the United States when we are sued, and brings affirmative civil enforcement to recover taxpayer dollars taken by waste and fraud.
Our Appeals Division works to preserve the foundations of our work through advocacy, written and oral, to help preserve valid convictions and rulings against attack.
In our office we talk about the 3-legged stool of prosecution, prevention and re-entry. We maintain that each aspect of our work is equally important. Indeed, we believe it is more efficient to prevent crime and restore lives than to prosecute crime. While you have had eight weeks here in the Academy doing the hard work of protecting the public, which is our core mission, you should be aware that all of the cooperating and coordinated law enforcement partners, including the FBI, are engaged in a variety of activities to try to prevent crime and to help criminal offenders get a new start and a second chance.
For example, the Youth Futures Commission is a group composed of business and civic leaders including Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper, Bishop Zubik, Leo Gerard, USW President, John Surma, USS CEO; and Alex Johnson, President of CCAC, dedicated to programming for at-risk children. Among the many programs of the Youth Futures Commission is "Be a 6th Grade Mentor" which is nationally recognized as a pioneering and effective program to offer hope where there is despair through positive adult role models in at-risk communities. Each of us probably has had a mentor in our lives who made a difference; giving us someone to talk to in tough times; an example to follow; and, a refuge from the difficult and challenging period of adolescence. Imagine how critical this role is in the life of an economically and/or educationally disadvantaged child, struggling without positive adult role models. Mentoring works and lives have changed for the better because kids are far more likely to succeed and stay in school.
We have expanded this work to respond to the First Lady Michelle Obama's call for One Million new mentors with the "Be One in a Million Mentoring Challenge." We are trying to recruit 4,000+ mentors here in Western Pennsylvania in the next three years, and perhaps you could be one. You will find it rewarding beyond imagination. In most mentoring relationships that I have witnessed, I am not sure who gets more out of it - the mentored child or the mentoring adult.
Re-entry work is our effort to give criminal offenders a second chance. Data shows that this is an area where opportunity to make our communities safer abounds. Criminal offenders often are released from jail after serving their sentence with no home, no transportation, no job and completely ill-equipped to re-enter society. Statistics show that within 3 years, convicted offenders are reincarcerated at a rate of up to 90% when they have no re-entry training and assistance. This recidivism rate drops drastically when programs such as we have here are offered. The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative is one such program, also recognized nationally as among the best of its kind. The Jail Collaborative prepares offenders six months before release date. Through vocational and educational training, family counseling, housing and transportation assistance including such simple assistance as the creation of a bank account, the purchase of a bus pass and the purchase of clothes to wear outside of prison, released prisoners are given a real chance to redeem themselves and avoid a return to a life of crime. Doing this work is a high priority of the President and Attorney General and it makes good sense. We cannot prosecute and incarcerate our way to safer communities - we need a balanced approach - and crime prevention through mentoring and re-entry are critical components of our work.
Before I close my remarks and invite your questions, I want to salute each of you again for your interest, your participation and your successful graduation.
You are involved. Please stay involved. Care for our community and our Country. Support civic and community organizations and encourage others to do so. Vote and encourage others to exercise their franchise. Be a community champion - be a patriot. Our Country and our fellow citizens depend upon it.